This college search thing and paying for college can be a little intimidating, especially if you are going through it for the first time. As two Black moms with six children between us, we’ve got some experience worth sharing.
Parents, you should be gathering together your financial records in order to begin applying for financial aid. At a minimum, you need to fill out a standardized needs analysis form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Many private colleges and some state-supported institutions may require you to electronically complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile form in addition to the. FAFSA. The CSS form is developed and processed by the same organization that brings you the SAT - The College Board.
A few schools will require other forms as well. To find out which forms are required by a particular college, research the schools financial aid office website.
All of the forms ask the same types of questions. Some will find the questions are invasive and prying. Colleges use this data to determine eligibility for aid.
You should also evaluate your financial situation. While financial aid can help, you may not be able to afford your child’s dream school. Discuss any limitations with your child now, so she knows sooner rather than later.
The total cost of attending college includes
Tuition and fees
Room and Board
Books and Supplies
I like to add hidden costs that colleges don’t consider, for example your child becomes sick and is attending college out of state. You go to visit to take care of your child, that isn’t a cost you planned for (hidden costs), costs to set up a dorm room, costs to eat away from campus, costs to travel home for holidays. My point is that there are lots of hidden costs to attending college and those costs vary depending on where your child attends college. Remember to plan for hidden costs.
The Aid Package will consist of three different types of aid:
Grants and Scholarships - the best kind because you don’t have to pay it back. Some of the grant money could come from the federal government, some from the state and some from the individual college. Scholarships are also free money, although there may be some conditions attached (academic performance, for example).
Federal Work Study - The federal government subsidizes this program, which provides part-time jobs to students. The money earned is put toward either tuition or living expenses.
Student Loans - These loans, usually taken out by the students are often subsidized(and guaranteed) by state or federal governments. The rates are usually much lower than regular unsecured loans.
Even when you are offered an Aid Package it doesn't always cover the total costs to attend. Usually this means you will have to take on additional debt. Or pick another school.